Americans support Net Neutrality by a wide margin – 61 percent – and this coming from a poll pushed by major companies seeking to control the internet.
The joke, as it turned out, is pretty much on the major telecommunications companies who pushed the poll and geared questions and results hoping to show Americans do not support a fair and open internet.
The poll in question was conducted by The Internet & Television Association – also known as the NCTA – and clearly shows 61 percent of the surveyed Americans want Net Neutrality rules to remain the law of the land. The NCTA is one of the major lobbying groups supported by the major telcoms including Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and others.
Only 18 percent of those polled “somewhat” or “strongly” oppose Net Neutrality.
Try as it did, with charts and graphs and leading questions pock-marked with glaring omissions of facts, to demonstrate public opposition to treating internet service providers as public utilities, the NCTA poll ended up showing what has been the fact since the Net Neutrality debate began: Americans want the internet regulated to ensure all Americans have equal and unfiltered access to the information superhighway.
Net Neutrality refresher
As a reminder, Net Neutrality is the phrase used to describe an internet to which all users have a fair and equal, if not necessarily free, access.
In the U.S. the concept is based on rulings by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which establish the internet as a public utility and, therefore, subject to government regulation just like other public utilities of electricity, water, telephone, interstate trucking and others.
A common carrier, as defined by the FCC, is any company or entity which provides a telecommunications service to the general public. A contract carrier, on the other hand, provides service to a select number of clients or customers. The Telecommunications Act of 1934 specifically classified the telephone companies, for example, as common carriers. (This may be shocking to some of you but the internet did not exist in 1934.)
Outside the telecommunications industry, airlines and bus companies are considered common carriers. Oil and natural gas pipelines are common carriers. Public utilities – electrical companies and water companies – are common carriers.
Common carriers are those companies and entities which provide a service for the common benefit of the general public. They certainly are entitled to earn revenue in return for their service but the U.S. government regulates how much common carriers can charge the public as a safeguard against price gouging or other public exploitation. It’s a sound, decent, fair system.
When President Obama finally issued in 2014 his position on net neutrality he said exactly what many advocates for a fair and open internet in the U.S. have been advocating for years: ISPs should be classified as common carriers.
“Simply put: No service should be stuck in a ‘slow lane’ because it does not pay a fee,” said Obama at the time. “That kind of gate keeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth.”
The major ISPs have long fought for the opportunity to charge higher prices for higher Internet speeds; to, in essence, create fast lanes and set up tolls booths if consumers want better internet service. The U.S. is the only nation in the world where such a debate is even being considered. The government of most of the world’s nations long ago stepped in to require ISPs to provide Internet at the fastest speeds available. (Brazil adopted an Internet Bill of Rights, guaranteeing every citizen free and unfettered access to the internet – as well as the right to data privacy.)
In fact and simple best-interests-of-all-internet-users, treating the ISPs as common carrier is the only way to ensure the internet using public won’t be exploited and Internet fast lanes won’t be created for the rich at the expense of the public and the greater good. The Internet is a public utility.